Horsemanship How-to: Find the Correct Western Stirrup Length

Western Stirrups

Do you ride western? Are your stirrups too long or too
short? Western stirrups that are too long will undermine your sense of
security. If your stirrups are too short, you’ll pop up and down in the saddle with
every stride. So how do you find the stirrup length that’s right for you?

Begin by sitting in the “sweet spot” of your western saddle:
not so far back that your jeans pockets are rubbing against the cantle yet not
scooted so far forward that you’re snuggling against the swell. Let your feet dangle
out of the stirrups. Relax your legs so they hang against your horse’s sides.
Keep your eyes forward and your upper body erect. Now that you’re sitting in a
naturally balanced position, feel for your stirrups. If they’re the correct
length you should only have to bend your knee slightly and merely tip your boot
toe up to slip it into the stirrup. If you find yourself hiking your knee up
and creating a definite bend in the joint, then they’re too short. On the other
hand, if you’re forced to resituate your seat in the saddle and fish for your
stirrups then they’re too long.

Keep in mind that you’ll probably need to adjust your
western stirrups if you switch from riding a rotund, stocky horse to one that’s
narrow and refined. And of course personal preference allows you to raise or
lower your stirrups a hole providing it doesn’t adversely affect your overall
position. By maintaining the appropriate stirrup length in your western saddle you’ll
be a more effective—and more comfortable—rider.

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Cindy Hale’s life with horses has been filled with variety. As a child she rode western and learned to barrel race. Then she worked as a groom for a show barn, and was taught to harness and drive Welsh ponies. But once she’d taken her first lessons aboard American Saddlebreds she was hooked on English riding. Hunters and hunt seat equitation came next, and she spent decades competing in those divisions on the West Coast. Always seeking to improve her horsemanship, she rode in clinics conducted by world-class riders like George Morris, Kathy Kusner and Anne Kursinski. During that time, her family began raising Thoroughbred and warmblood sport horses, and Cindy experienced the thrills and challenges of training and showing the homebred greenies. Now retired from active competition, she’s a popular judge at local and county-rated open and hunter/jumper shows. She rides recreationally both English and western. Her Paint gelding, Wally, lives at home with her and her non-horsey husband, Ron.


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